Story 4

It’s All About THE PROCESS

In the morning of April 17, 2016, I found myself journaling about relationships. The question I asked that morning was, how can I attain true friendships. This question led me to begin writing the following:

“Lord I ask you to please place the right men in my life to share and have accountability in regards to life issues. This is an area where I have always struggled. Many times I have thought about having friends but childhood experiences made me struggle with this concept. However, I know I have to break the cycle. I know part of this problem is my insecurity to meet new people. I feel that You are working your plans for me. Please allow me to have this opportunity and give me strength to continue to grow.”

In June of 2017, a member of my men’s group from church mentioned that he attends a work out with other men that takes place at 5:15 am. He described the workouts and the routine of getting a name at the work outs for the new guys. I found his comments interesting, and I asked him for the meeting times and locations. He mentioned that the workouts were taking place at various locations throughout Sylvania. I found it interesting due to the fact that I could go the workout and head to work after it was done. He asked if I wanted to go to the next workout with him the following morning, and I said yes. My final question that night was, what is the name of this workout group? His answer: F3.

My first workout was a Thursday morning. There were probably around 25 guys. I found it very interesting, and I really enjoyed the first day. I was given the name Cogsworth. I remember going to work that morning thinking about what was said during the COT (Circle of Trust). The component of the guys praying for various issues and opening about their struggles made me come back for more.

What does this group mean to me? It means various things. Prior to joining F3 I was struggling with the routine of life. As the head of household in my family, I felt I was missing interaction with other men. I did not have a network of men that I could spend time and talk about the struggles that we face as men.

I should mention that I am a very blessed to have a wonderful wife that supports me, and she is always there for me. I have two wonderful daughters, and words cannot even describe how blessed I am to be called their dad. However, as every man falls into the routine of work and all the other stressors of life, we tend to forget and struggle to be leaders in our families.

This group of guys that I have known for the past six months have given the opportunity to share my struggles and accomplishments to become a better man by improving my health, network of guys, and my faith.

As I go over my journal entries prior to joining F3, I see a man that was trying to overcome issues on his own. My life counselor once told me that I was not mentally tough during one of our sessions. This group of guys have helped me to be mentally tough. It is still a process that continues to improve and some days it is hard to overcome, but I have learned to cope better when I am surrounded by my F3 brothers.

It is my prayer that this group of men will continue to get stronger and that we can become the men that we were meant to be in our homes and communities. The process is not over and will continue to improve. See you in the gloom.

Aye!

Arnold “Cogsworth” Cruz

Story 3

The Best Decision in a Long Time

I like to think of myself as one of the four originals with F3 Toledo. Myself, Colonel, Klinger and Silent P were the four that originally went to Cleveland on a cold Saturday morning. I had no idea what to expect. After getting my butt kicked for an hour, worse than any basketball conditioning I had ever done, I agreed to help get this going here in Toledo.

I still remember the night before the official launch standing in Klinger’s garage with Colonel talking about how many guys would show up and what kind of success it would be. I never thought it would turn out like it did. The impact F3 has had on me has been in several different areas. It has forced me to step outside my normal exercise routine, which is a great thing. This is the best shape I have been in over the last 15 years. It has also introduced me to guys that I never would have known and allowed me to create new friendships with like minded men. One thing I have seen with F3 is many of the men that post all have similar qualities. For a guy who grew up in Sylvania and still had high school friends he hung out with, I never thought I needed any more friends. F3 changed that and has allowed me the opportunity to make friendships with so many more guys, and I am thankful for that.

Finally the faith piece: as a born-again Christian knowing you have other Christians praying for you, the city, your family, whatever it might be is comforting. Knowing God hears all prayers I have already seen the positive impact it has had with the growth with F3 Toledo, FIA and in our own household. Working out, Bible study, and socializing with a great group of men has made me strive to be a better follower of Christ, husband, father and business owner.

Back in March 2016 when Colonel asked me to check out F3 Nation and see if I was interested in helping him get something started here in Toledo, as a friend, I politely accepted not knowing the impact it would have on me. Bottom line – it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time.

Jason “Brute” Harsh

Story 2

Dedicated and Pushing it Every Day

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

When I was first approached about F3 in Toledo, I thought that it was a pretty neat idea and that some guys would probably get behind it. I wasn’t sure that it was something I needed because I considered myself pretty active and “in shape.” I coach middle school cross country and track, so I was running almost every day. I’ve trained for running events and triathlons, so I thought I knew what it meant to be dedicated to a workout plan.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, and I can’t stand to sit around and do nothing, so being overweight hasn’t really been an issue. I knew there were some areas that needed improvement, but I was comfortable with my physical fitness and confident that I could maintain it for the years to come. Other than the time I spent coaching kids, I didn’t really experience any joy with exercising, but I knew it was something I had to do. So, I was OK with checking the box next to ‘Exercise’ on my list of things to do. I was thinking that F3 was just an exercise group, and I felt like I had that area of my life covered.

I went to an F3 workout in Cleveland before things got started up in Toledo, and I got absolutely smoked! So much for thinking I was in pretty good shape. I remember looking at my watch after what seemed to be at least 45 minutes of the hour-long workout, and it said that only 20 minutes had gone by! What?? Something must be wrong with my watch! We’re not even halfway done??!! On top of that, I was confused by all the weird names they were calling the exercises and couldn’t understand how everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing. I did get a few laughs from the ribbing the guys would yell out to each other, and it was nice to hear people say encouraging words to the guys who were struggling like me. I finished the beatdown, but I was definitely in the back of the pack. That’s when I realized that maybe I had the wrong idea of how F3 could impact my life.

As things moved forward in Toledo, and I consistently started posting to beatdowns, I really started seeing that almost all of my notions about my workout habits were mistaken.

Did I run almost every day of the week while coaching?

Yes, I did, but I also knew that I was doing the least amount of possible work just so I could keep up with the middle of the pack of runners. I also knew that I would take most of the months between cross country and track season off, and I would start to get back in shape a few weeks before the next season started.

Have I trained for and completed running events and triathlons?

Yep, that one is true too. But, was I truly dedicated to my training plan? I knew the answer to that question was no. If I was honest with myself, I knew that I probably only completed about half of the workouts on whatever plan I was following. I was pretty good at coming up with reasons why it was OK for me to skip a day, and I didn’t let it bother me. At the same time, I was never able to really push myself like I felt I should be able to during an event – I was always struggling to just reach the finish line, not really competing.

Have I ever been overweight?

No, I haven’t. But, do I keep losing the same 10-15 pounds every year? That one would be a yes. I think I know the weight that is right for me, when my body “feels” right, and I’d say that I’m at that weight for about 3 months of the year. I spend the other 9 months either slowly moving above that weight or towards that weight. When my clothes stop fitting comfortably is when I usually start getting more serious about working out. I knew that it didn’t really make sense for me to do that every year, but it didn’t bother me enough to do something different. F3 helped me see these things more clearly and made it easier for me to make some positive changes.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is that my consistency has improved greatly. It’s not unusual for me to go to 5 or 6 workouts a week, and it’s been that way for the last 9 months. When I know that there’s a group of men getting up just like me because they want to get more fit, it makes it so much easier to make the decision to get out there and put in the work. I know that if I don’t show up, someone is going to text me or call me and say, “Everything alright? Didn’t see you this morning and want to make sure you’re OK.” Much easier to post than it is to answer those questions with, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just didn’t feel like getting up today.” The shared responsibility of everyone’s fitness level has made it easy to be consistent. I want to be held accountable, and the power of the men in F3 Toledo have done an excellent job of doing just that.

And this brings me to the next positive change – dedication and pushing myself every day. There are men of all fitness levels in the group, and there’s always someone that’s stronger, faster, or with more endurance than me. This has allowed me to workout harder and more effectively than I ever have before. I leave workouts knowing that I pushed myself as hard as I could because I’m always trying to keep up with the guys that can do more reps than me or can run to the top of some hill faster than me. It’s much harder for me to say to myself, “I’m not feeling that great today, I think I’ll just go half speed or not the full distance I’m supposed to.” Without anybody having to say anything to me, I’m going to do my best to get better each day. At the same time, I know that there might be someone looking to me to provide some of that motivation, so I feel like I owe it to them to give my best at all times so that they in turn push themselves as much as they can. It’s a bit of an odd dynamic, but it works!

All that stuff is great, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the most important part of F3 – brotherhood. Real brotherhood in the sense that I know there are men I can turn to for laughs, advice, sharing, etc., and they will be open and honest with me. Real brotherhood in the sense that there are men that hold me accountable and expect me to provide them the same openness and honesty they give to me. Real brotherhood in the sense that we help each other become stronger leaders in our homes, our families, our workplaces, our churches, and our communities. There’s a palpable sense that together, we can accomplish so many positive things for our lives. If you would’ve asked me before this all started if I felt like I had friends, my answer would’ve been yes, and I would’ve meant it. But, in my adult life, I haven’t had friends that I would hang out with on my own. My wife and I have friend couples that we might go out to dinner with every once in a while.

It’s always a fun time, but it’s not like I was calling the guy up to see how his day was going or if he needed help with anything. There are even men that are a part of F3 Toledo that I would’ve said were my friends before we started working out together, but I never really did anything to improve that friendship.

Really, it was more of if we happened to be in the same place at the same time, or if our wives made a plan to get together, then we’d catch up and have some laughs. But, after all the hours we’ve spent together in the gloom, that friendship is now a true friendship.

We do share an interest in how each other’s day is going. We do make plans to get together and grab lunch or a beer without any help from our wives. If I need help with a project or want some advice about something, I know there’s at least 10 guys I could call up and they’d be genuinely willing to help. The support and power that comes from having true friends is enormous, and it has really made a positive difference in my life.

All that from just an early morning men’s workout group? Kind of sounds a bit unbelievable, right? Well, believe me…it’s all true! My F3 brothers and I will be out there pushing each other to be the best versions our ourselves – come see for yourself!!

Bryan “Klinger” Riley

Story 1

Toledo… Really?!?

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

I learned of F3 while living in Charlotte, NC (I lived there from 1999 – 2014). At that time, I heard rumblings of guys that worked out only a short jog from my home. I passed these men on my way to the gym or work and was curious about what the attraction to what I now refer to as “the gloom.” At the time, I was working out at a Crossfit box, playing basketball a couple days a week and felt I had little need for the fellowship or fitness F3 provided.

However, my curiosity grew to the point that I put in my calendar dates to post at 5:30 AM with no EH (invite) to see what it was all about:

  • Tuesday, 6/4/13 – Freedom Park – F3
  • Wednesday, 9/25/13 – Cotswold Elementary – F3
  • Tuesday, 10/1/13 – Cotswold Elementary – F3

I never posted. Instead deciding to go on a solo run, I promised myself to work out later that day (did not happen more times than it did happen), or I just told myself it’s way too early to work out outside, it would be odd to show up without an invite, etc.

Around August of 2013 I was promoted at work and went from being home every night to traveling Monday – Friday covering 7 states and leading an 8-person sales team. With 3 kids under 4 years old, coming home and going to my first F3 workout quickly became an afterthought.

Being away from my wife and 3 girls was even more difficult than I anticipated. I thoroughly enjoyed leading the team at work but not at the expense of my family. In May, an opportunity presented itself to move to my wife’s hometown of Sylvania, OH (Toledo metro area) to work for a great company that a former colleague called me about. I made the difficult decision to leave a city I loved for 15 years for a great job that would allow me to be home every night with my family and my children to grow up around family in Ohio.

Fast forward to September 2016 and I had allowed myself to become what F3 calls the “Sadclown.” Working out was sporadic (solo runs, intermittent in the gym or working out at home with basketball once a week). I complained about what Toledo did not have compared to Charlotte. I missed the friendships that I had with people I had known in Charlotte for many years. I secretly hoped my wife would say she wanted to move back to the Carolinas, which admittedly was unfair considering her entire family is in Toledo and my girls loved being able to see their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma/grandpa every week.

September 15, 2016 – I decided to reach out to F3 via the F3 expansion request on the nations site. I sent an email explaining what I knew of F3, the fact I was from Charlotte area, had never posted, but I included a list of the top 10 reasons Toledo needs F3. Evidently it was enough for Crotch Rocket (CR) to respond that night and promised to talk with me live. I proceeded to bug CR weekly until he scheduled my call – and then rescheduled…

During our initial conversation, CR let me know that they had intentions to LEAP (launch in a new city without a driving distance existing F3, or existing member of F3 pax member moving into the area) further into Ohio and Indiana in 2017. He was quick to say that upon further review Toledo wasn’t in consideration to plant the F3 flag, and the focus was on Columbus and Cincinnati. I pleaded to give Toledo a chance to launch and promised to get to work immediately recruiting guys even as were about to enter the winter, and I knew even if approved to launch it would be at least 6+ months away…

The first man I asked to consider F3 and to help was Bryan Riley (Klinger). My second and third contacts were Jason Harsh (Brute) and Vince Palko (Pixar). Contacts with these gentleman prior to F3 were limited to girls’ cross-country coach (Klinger), Church functions and a couple pickup basketball games (Brute) and a colleague from a previous company telling me to reach out to Vince (Pixar) when I got to Toledo. I met Vince while our daughters were running on my 1st summer in Toledo, and we said we’d grab a beer or coffee – never happened…

These men were kind enough to run through workouts to check out potential locations prior to launching. In our final workout on a Saturday morning – May 6th, 2017 – Vince and Bryan sat with me over some bagels and coffee laughing at my concern we wouldn’t have enough men posting for the launch workout on May 13th. I had a tally on a napkin asking who they had as HC (Hard Commits) praying for a solid turnout to prove Toledo would represent F3 well and show out!

On May 13th, 10 pax from F3Cleveland (led by Schotty) and Packo from Columbus, came to make sure we launched right. The feeling of watching car after car roll into the parking lot of Southview High School in Sylvania, OH was something I’ll never forget as 35 Toledo men showed up for a total of 46 – one of the largest launches in F3 History!

Nine months into F3 in Toledo and it has already made an impact on dozens upon dozens of men’s lives. The beauty of F3 everywhere is that it is open to all men – regardless of one’s financial situation, politics or belief system. The walls we typically build, knowingly or unknowingly, in our world can be torn down or at least run over when these are not seen as a conversation stopper or deterrent. Over 100 men have Q’d (led) a workout, almost 400 men have come through and given it a shot, with well over a hundred sticking around to make it a part of their weekly routine. We have started over 16 official workout times with pre-runs and pre-rucks happening regularly, leadership book studies, bible studies, happy hours, etc.

What I love about F3 in Toledo,
and I am certain happening throughout the country: 

  • Men are becoming stronger every day across all 3 F’s
  • Men are losing weight, doing pull-ups for the first time or first time in a long time, doing 100 burpees or pushups throughout a workout when they previously were sitting on the couch or working out alone sporadically….
  • Men are leading vocally and by example to their peers which in turn makes them better leaders in their careers and in their homes
  • Men are vocalizing their faults and trials to other men that are now friends they trust in multiple arenas – COT, during Rucks, Lunches, Happy Hours, Bible Study, etc. – all of which were not present nine months ago
  • Friendships are being forged through sweat and direct, honest conversation
  • Prayers and prayer intentions are being heard and said every day at every workout
  • It just might be the only place they hear a prayer or have their prayer heard that day/week

I know of no other avenue that can impact men from 18-80 like F3. We all owe an amount of gratitude that is impossible to put a price tag on to the men that showed up on 1/1/11 in Charlotte: Dredd, OBT, along with CR and others. They took a simple workout and turned it into a leadership machine that can allow us to all become more confident, healthier, and more accountable to ourselves and those around us all for the cost of waking up a little earlier than normal and doing it again and again. Not a workout goes by that someone, or many, state that there is no way they would do this if it wasn’t for F3.

For me personally, living in Toledo has gotten exponentially better. I no longer go on solo runs or make excuses to not work out. How could I do that when I have a hundred plus friends I can reach out to or meet up with at the designated workout times. I no longer complain about Toledo because I now see that my complaints had more to do with a lack of knowledge. The knowledge that within a few miles radius of my house there was the potential for 60+ to meet up on a Saturday before 7 am to be led by a peer in a tough workout no matter the weather (-10 degrees, rain, snow, etc.) and would do it again on any weekday at 5:30 am. That this same thing has since been extended to Perrysburg and metro Toledo, with even more locations around Toledo.

Furthermore, no one can explain that the workout is the least impactful part of what takes place in F3 until you show up and 20 F3 Toledo show up multiple times. You can get a workout many ways. Every man that posts to F3 has something to give and something to take that day and in a more impactful way to them and others than could ever happen on their own or at your local gym.

What F3 has provided me and many others in Toledo is a time to get better every day of my life and allows us all to be humbled and encouraged at the same time. Humbled by being pushed to the max at a workout; by listening to a fellow pax member requesting thoughts/prayers for a challenge in their life; for leading a group of men and most likely failing at portions of it.  Humbled because while each workout and every opportunity within F3 is “You vs You” it starts to really impact you on a personal level when you realize the power is knowing it isn’t about You – it’s about the man showing up alongside You. Encouraged by being positively pushed to finish a workout to the best of your ability that morning; knowing many are thinking/praying for you and your request; knowing that your circle of legit friends has grown the day you commit to this as a part of your life.

F3 Toledo’s impact is just starting to take shape in less than 1 year. The impact we will make on each other, as individuals and in our community is going to continue to surpass any and all expectations just like we did on May 13th. Some may even call what we are doing in such short order and with such passion, miraculous…

Jared “Colonel” Helton